IBJ Whitehall Financial Group said it plans to create a unit to specialize in lending to middle-market retailers and that it has hired three executives from BankBoston Corp. to run it.

The unit, IBJ Whitehall Retail Finance, will become part of the $2.5 billion-asset institution's business credit division.

Robert A. Barnhard, 35, has been named president of the retail finance business, overseeing all operational and credit activities. He was a founding member of GBFC Inc., which provided financing to troubled retailers and was acquired by BankBoston Corp. in 1996. Mr. Barnhard will split his time between Boston and New York.

He will report to Edward Fanning, president of IBJ Whitehall Business Credit Corp.

Barbara Anderson, 36, has been hired as executive vice president in charge of new business development and strategic planning, based in Reston, Va. She was regional director of new business development for BankBoston Retail Finance Inc.

Francis O'Connor, 38, will join as senior vice president and chief credit officer. He was a director of BankBoston Retail Finance.

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